Celebrated danseuse and television personality Shamim Ara Nipa has enthralled the audience for decades with her elegance, poise and grace. With tutelage from renowned dance maestros such as G A Mannan and Nikunja Bihari Pal, she was also blessed with the opportunity to learn from Pandit Birju Maharaj from different workshops, especially on Kathak. The dancer also expanded her horizons and pursued versatility, receiving instruction from a North Korean dance trainer and obtaining a certificate in choreography from the China National Academy of Fine Art. Alongside dancing, the artiste also appeared in over 50 tele-fictions as an actor. In a candid chat with The Daily Star, the Ekushey Padak winning artiste shares how her academy Nrityanchal and students are doing in these tough times.
How have the past few months been for Nrityanchal?
When we founded the school, it became a place of worship for all of us—the students, the teachers, and the other staff members. With time, many joined our journey and together, we slowly emerged as a family. However, the coronavirus pandemic has pushed us towards dire circumstances, as we have not been doing any stage performance since March and our students are unable to come to classes.
What are the challenges you are facing with the school?
We have 30-40 individuals working under us -- including dance teachers, musicians, technicians, costume designers and other administrative staff. As an institution, we have no income generating source, other than the tuition fees that comes from the students. As the classes were suspended, our only income source has stopped and we have been struggling to pay the monthly salaries of our employees. As we have always believed dance is universal and everyone has the right to learn and experience its joy, our fee structure is very non-profit and we even end up giving scholarships to many. Thus, we do not have any savings that will keep us going on for months.
How are your employees and performers doing at the moment?
Most of them had to leave this industry and pursue other career choices to sustain. We tried to keep them going for the first couple of months with some small donations we had received from some of our well-wishers. We also contributed personally from our side to help them with food and medication, but now it seems like we are running out of options. We have started online classes, but most of our students are also in financial crisis, as their parents have become a victim of the recent job-cuts happening all around the country. There is a core team comprising of over 80 members, which consists of technicians, who will be left unemployed if the situation does not get better soon.
Do you have any message for your fans and well-wishers?
As dancers, I believe that we are national assets. I hope that the authorities will be more supportive towards us in these tough times because if the institutions are closed, the industry will collapse and we will fail to produce quality dancers, which has always been our prime concern at Nrityanchal. Also, as human beings, we often give in to things such as envy and selfishness, but this catastrophe will make us realise that unity is the only way we will overcome these circumstances.